When I was six years old, I heard the opening lines of ‘Grace Kelly’ for the first time and I was hooked.
A fun, upbeat vocal workout along the colours of the rainbow, with a nod to Freddie Mercury thrown in for good measure – it was clear that a new star was emerging. Mika was unapologetically himself from the offset, chastising the record executives who tried to force him to be somebody he’s not, and I loved him for it; I even named my pet hamster Humphrey after the final line of the song. It was number one in the UK charts for 5 weeks, subsequently became the third biggest selling single of 2007 (behind ‘Bleeding Love’ and ‘Umbrella’, no less) and was the lead single of Life In Cartoon Motion, the third biggest selling album of the same year.
The album’s success was well-deserved as it contained some of the most iconic songs of the year. ‘Relax, Take It Easy’ is a disco-like dance track, and yet its lyrics convey his fear at being on the tube on the day of the 7/7 London bombings. ‘Lollipop’ is a message to his younger sister warning her about getting her heart broken; ‘Love Today’ and ‘Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)’, the other big singles on the album, are similarly feel-good tunes with catchy refrains that celebrate love (or lust) in all its forms. However, the slower tracks on the album are where he really shines; ‘Happy Ending’ can still be found today in the background of any emotional reality TV moment, and is a truly beautiful but heartbreaking song. ‘Any Other World’ is a track that I never really appreciated at the time, but absolutely love now – it deals with the emotions of having to ‘say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in’ at points in your life where everything is going wrong.
Life In Cartoon Motion is the album that most people think of when they think of Mika, and will always be his most commercially successful, but as he has matured his work has got better and better. His sophomore album The Boy Who Knew Too Much spawned the singles ‘We Are Golden’, ‘Rain’ and ‘Blame It On The Girls’ which all follow on nicely from the work of his debut, but his third album The Origin Of Love is where his talent as a songwriter really came into its own. Every track on the album is brilliant, with dance-pop songs such as ‘Stardust’ and the Pharrell Williams collaboration ‘Celebrate’ being most reminiscent to his earlier work, alongside (in my opinion) some of the best songs he has written, including ‘Make You Happy’ and the album’s title track. Next came No Place In Heaven, which deals more openly with his sexuality for the first time, and most recently 2019’s My Name Is Michael Holbrook. As you can tell from the title, this album seems a lot more personal than his previous work, with ‘Paloma’ telling the story of his sister’s near-fatal accident and ‘Tiny Love (Reprise)’ featuring her vocals as well as those of his mother. Again, some of his best work is on this album; ‘Sanremo’ transports you to the Italian coast, while the Jack Savoretti collaboration ‘Ready To Call This Love’ is an utterly gorgeous love song.
I absolutely adore Mika. I always have done, and always will, and Life In Cartoon Motion will always have a special place in my heart as the album where it all began.
Life In Cartoon Motion is out now via Casablanca Records. Listen to ‘Grace Kelly’ below: